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Dangers of Chlorine in Pools

Chlorine is a chemical commonly used to disinfect swimming pools. It can effectively eliminate bacteria and fungi from water, although normal levels of chlorination may not be effective for destroying Giardia cysts that can contribute to dysentery, according to Pennsylvania State University experts. Pool owners often choose chlorine over more modern treatment chemicals because of its low cost. Many health professionals believe, however, that there are risks involved with using chlorine as a purification agent for swimming pool water.


The use of chlorine as a swimming pool disinfectant may increase the risk of allergies, particularly hay fever, Dr. Andrew Weil writes on his website. Children and teenagers who spend more than 1,000 hours in chlorinated swimming pools may be up to eight times more likely to develop allergies than those who do not swim in chlorinated water.


Chlorinated swimming pool water may also increase the risk of developing asthma, Weil notes. When combined with organic material such as urine or sweat, chlorine is thought to produce an irritant called trichloramine, which may damage the protective cellular barrier in the lungs. The degradation of this protective barrier may facilitate the development of asthma symptoms. Trichloramine is thought to permeate the air surrounding chlorinated pools during evaporation --- meaning that people sitting near chlorinated water may also develop asthma.

Birth Problems

Some medical researchers believe that chlorine may increase the risk of birth problems in pregnant women, including spontaneous abortion, birth defects and stillbirth. However, according to research published in the journal "Occupational and Environmental Medicine," the risk or these problems is minimal. As of 2010, research linking exposure to chlorine in swimming pool water to birth defects and other birth problems is inconclusive.

Other Dangers

According to the New York State Department of Health, exposure to chlorine may produce a number of temporary effects. These include irritation of the mucous membranes and eyes, sore throat, skin irritation, chest tightness and breathing difficulties. The severity of these symptoms depends on the amount of chlorine in the water and the length of time spent in chlorinated water.

• Dr. Weil: Dangers of Chlorine?
• "Occupational and Environmental Medicine"; Swimming Pool Chlorine Risk to Pregnant Women; Dr. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen; April 4, 2002
• Penn State University: Removing Giardia Cysts From Drinking Water
• New York State Department of Health: The Facts About Chlorine

Dangers of Chlorine in Drinking water

If you are not convinced about the dangers of chlorine in your tap water, here's an extract from: Dr Z Rona MD MSc "Most people never give it a thought. After all, our elected public officials keep assuring us that chlorinated city tap water is completely safe for human consumption. Numerous scientific studies report that chlorinated tap water is a skin irritant and can be associated with rashes like eczema. Chlorinated water can destroy polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E in the body while generating toxins capable of free radical damage (oxidation). This might explain why supplementation of the diet with essential fatty acids like flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil and antioxidants like vitamin E, selenium and others helps so many cases of eczema and dry skin.

"Chlorinated water destroys much of the intestinal flora, the friendly bacteria that help in the digestion of food and which protects the body from harmful pathogens. These bacteria are also responsible for the manufacture of several important vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin K. It is not uncommon for chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, seborrhea and eczema to clear up or to be significantly improved by switching to unchlorinated drinking water and supplementing the diet with lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus.

"Chlorinated water contains chemical compounds called trihalomethanes which are carcinogens resulting from the combination of chlorine with compounds in water. These chemicals, also known as organochlorides, do not degrade very well and are generally stored in the fatty tissues of the body (breast, other fatty areas, mother's milk, blood and semen). Organochlorides can cause mutations by altering DNA, suppress immune system function and interfere with the natural controls of cell growth.

"Chlorine has been documented to aggravate asthma, especially in those children who make use of chlorinated swimming pools. Several studies also link chlorine and chlorinated by-products to a greater incidence of bladder, breast and bowel cancer as well as malignant melanoma. One study even links the use of chlorinated tap water to congenital cardiac anomalies.

"Anything you can do to filter tap and shower water that eliminates or even minimizes chlorine would certainly be helpful and possibly curative for some immune system problems. The use of at source water filtration devices is increasingly popular and affordable. Discuss their use with your health care practitioner".


Fackelman, K.A., Hints of a chlorine-cancer connection. Science News

Flaten, T.P., Chlorination of drinking water and cancer incidence in Norway. International Journal of Epidermiology.

Messina V., Chlorine and cancer. Good Medicine

Dr. Zoltan P. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School (1977) and has a Master's Degree in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut (1985). He is the author of the Canadian bestsellers, "The Joy of Health" and "Return to the Joy of Health". He is a past president of the Canadian Holistic Medical Association and is a consultant on nutritional medicine to the Motherisk Program of the Department of Pharmacology